The acceptance rate of the super-selective Ivy League is extremely low. There is a record number of high school students who are applying for college straight out of high school – more than 60 percent, according to David Hawkins, director at the National Association of College Admission Counseling. Meantime, the number of students applying for college is increasing each year. According to the federal Department of Education, this year will feature the highest number of high school graduates, 3.2, almost a million up from five years ago.
Recent admission trends indicate that even though you have a high GPA and good or perfect SAT scores, it’s not a given that you’ll get admission to your first choice school, so it’s wise to have as many back-ups as you can to optimize the final result of your college application process without waiting for another entire year. As a matter of fact, many students are applying to as many as 10 or 15 universities. This is primarily attributed to the Common Application form, which can be downloaded from the Internet and sent online to as many as 300 schools nationwide.
However, the results of this survey of first-year college students is relieving: 70% of these students say that they ended up at their first choice school, and most students are ultimately happy with their choice of college. At first this may seem surprising, especially since schools like Yale accepted fewer than ten percent of the 20,000 students who applied last year, and both Harvard and Columbia accepted just more than 10 percent, but there are many reasons why students end up at specific schools, as both the students and the college make great endeavors to find a right fit.
Many schools do recruit and encourage younger applicants to apply. Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford Business School and Harvard Business School are among those with a reputation for accepting younger applicants, but many schools admit almost no young applicants (even though they claim to be interested in them). Even those schools that do accept large numbers of young applicants are quite selective in their choices. In both the application process and the experience of business school itself the younger applicant faces special hardships, which are important to be aware of.
Young applicants face several challenges in the MBA application process. They have to compensate for a lack of work experience with leadership roles, higher than average GMAT scores, higher than average GPA, even more focused career goals, recommendations showing maturity and preparedness, and uniqueness (in some manner).
Leadership experience is especially important. In essays as well as during the interview process, it is important that younger applicants show admissions officers or interviewers what leadership roles they have taken on, what they have learned in those roles, and explain with concrete examples. Younger applicants will especially want to highlight larger roles, which help to display their unique knack for leadership. Successful younger candidates can show that their uncommon leadership abilities exceed the average college student, through experiences such as being elected College President, internships in fields that recruit few undergraduates, or entrepreneurial experiences.
Business School Experience
At school, younger students sometimes experience difficulties relating to fellow students. Other business school students, who tend to be older and more experienced, come to school with different interests and home lives, as they sometimes have families and different backgrounds. These differences can cause mutual misunderstanding and ultimately limit the forming of lasting relationships and networks that many people go to business school to create.
In the classroom, younger applicants need to continue to show that they do have legitimate and interesting experiences to share and make this clear to professors. Overall, it is important that younger students keep their self-confidence in the face of older students. Younger students must respect older students for the greater breadth of experience that comes from spending time in the “real world,” but remember too that they were accepted because of exceptional ability (however young) and do indeed have things to offer the class and the professional world.
In the job application process, younger students may have difficulties with certain career paths. Venture capital firms, for example, often seek MBAs with greater professional experience. However, consulting firms and banks are happy to recruit younger, more energetic MBAs, though they may hesitate at first to put younger MBAs in management positions.
Overall Pros and Cons
Overall the MBA experience for younger students is not an easy one. Yet despite the difficulties experienced in the application process and in study, the young applicant does have the advantage of completing the degree early—especially important to women, who later, for personal reasons, may want to take time out from the professional world. Also, it is a good path for the over achiever who is used to being among older people. Young applicants who are not so used to it should carefully select the schools they apply to according to their percentages of younger admits. Younger applicants will find themselves jump starting their careers early and may possibly be spending more of their professional lives in unique, exciting roles where they can make a greater impact.
Going to business school and getting the position you want afterwards is a multi-step process, involving a conscious self-assessment as well as the development of an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of particular programs. Below is a step-by-step outline as to how to approach the MBA decision at each of its stages.
Step 1: Costs
Cost assessment should be based not only on the cost of tuition, but also on the cost of not receiving a salary for two years (or one year depending on the program), as well as the increased earnings gained from the MBA over the first few years. This formula varies from person to person and from program to program, so an individual assessment is necessary. You may want to consult the Forbes ROI calculator and the school statistics on post-graduate earnings.
Step 2: Schools
Deciding which schools to apply to is again an individualized question, but each applicant will want to take into account at least some of the following.
· Reputation. To many candidates, reputation or prestige is at the top of their list. Often times it is given too much weight.
· Expertise. How does the school’s area of expertise fit with your professional goals and aspirations?
· Location. Certain locations can open up professional opportunities, beyond the obvious advantages of global finance centers like New York or London. Some applicants chose schools because particular companies are headquartered in the vicinity of the school. Location should also be considered in terms of personal preferences, like livability.
· Teaching Styles and Curriculum. This requires inquiries into the various teaching styles and curriculum in practice and how they match your own style, goals, interests, and needs.
· GMAT and GPA statistics. When assessing how likely you are to get into a given school, you will want to look at the statistics of the incoming class in terms of GMAT, GPA, and professional experience. Increase your GPA according to the strength of your undergraduate institution as well as the technical/quantitative difficulty of your degree. Determine whether your scores and experiences combine to make you above average, average, or below average and thus likely, possibly likely, or unlikely to get in. This shouldn’t be the ultimate determinant of whether or not to apply, but rather indicative of how a given school will be categorized. MBA admissions consultants are quite helpful in this process.
· Consider attending an MBA fair. It will give you exposure to a range of programs. The applicants who find fairs most helpful are already at least somewhat informed about the application process and are prepared to ask admission committee members specific questions.
Step 3: Number of Schools
It is recommended that you apply to 3-10 schools. It all depends on you and the particular schools you apply to. Some schools, including top programs like Cornell, have fairly easy applications, so it may not take much extra effort to apply to them. Other schools have more peculiar applications with lots of distinct essay questions, like Stanford. Overall, it is recommended that you apply to at least one school that you will easily get into. Then, based on cost and time add additional schools you are interested in.
Recommenders should be individuals able to comment on your preparedness for business school, your past experiences, and your personal and professional attributes. A recommender need not be a big name at your company or elsewhere, but most importantly someone who knows you well.
Sometimes this aspect of the process is frustrating. Your recommender is pressed for time, forgets they promised you a recommendation. But you can make it easier on yourself and your recommender by making sure you:
· Provide them with a copy of your resume, even essay draft.
· Meet with them (whether by phone or in person).
· Give them a clear understanding of deadlines.
On the recommendations themselves, if you feel appropriate doing so request that your recommender address how they know you, your accomplishments, you vs. others in similar roles, your strengths, and your weaknesses. As a rule, the more specific a recommendation is, the better the recommendation is.
Your resume is also an important selling point to the admissions committee. It should be flawless and in a style the admissions committees find suitable. Some schools, for example, insist that the resume be one-page, so you should adapt, cut, and edit to their expectations. Some guiding principles to follow include the following.
· Do not include high school experiences in your business school resume.
· List your work experiences first, before your education.
· Do not state your objectives.
OTHER TIPS ON KEY APPLICATION COMPONENTS
Do the best you can and give yourself adequate time to prepare. Take a review class or seek out private tutoring to ensure that your score is as good as it can be.
It can not be changed. For some it will be a strength, for others a weakness. Consider explaining in an optional essay, for example, a low GPA, but do not make excuses. Professional or academic successes post-college do say a great deal already.
Do not simply list these activities. Make sure that you also explain them and their importance to you as well as your particular accomplishments. If you do not have at least 4 extracurricular activities, consider explaining why: Were you working? Were you fulfilling other personal or professional roles? What in the future would you like to do outside the professional sphere? How will you ensure that you are able to do so?
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